The Office Manager remarked the other day that she'd never had chocolate pie, and was pretty sure she wouldn't like it. Talk about throwing down the gauntlet! There was no way I was going to let a challenge like that go unanswered. So I started thinking about what she might or might not like about chocolate pie.
The Office Manager has been known, on occasion, to describe something as "too chocolate-y". These are not words that go together in my mind, but OK. What kind of chocolate pie would be light and fluffy and not "too chocolate-y"? But wait, it still has to be chocolate-y enough to satisfy the rest of us! Thus it was that I arrived at Chocolate Chiffon Pie.
Chiffon, as applied to food, usually means there are stiffly beaten egg whites to give a light texture. But, and here's the thing that made me hesitate, chiffon pie also has gelatin in it. I suppose there are all kinds of food snobbery: I have shied away from gelatin as an ingredient for a long time. I think one too many "Jello salads" in my childhood left me with the impression that gelatin = rubbery.
Fannie Farmer set me straight on this one: she claims that a properly-made chiffon pie will not be rubbery at all. The trick, apparently, is not too much gelatin. So I carefully measured out just the right amount of gelatin, and once again Fannie Farmer wins! That pie was amazing. The texture of the filling was very very mousse-like, but without the separation and seepage problems that mousse develops if it sits too long. And the chocolate flavor was light, but lovely. I paired it with a dark chocolate cookie crust. The Office Manager had a second piece.
When I did a Google search on "chiffon" I got a lot of hits for The Chiffons, a girl group who had their first hit in 1960. I was struck by the appropriateness of the name, for a group with such a silky-smooth, light-as-air sound. So this recipe is named after Judy Craig, the original lead singer of the Chiffons.
This pie was so successful (and so easy), I suspect there are more chiffons to come.
For the chocolate cookie crust, I recommend using Jane cookies. If you make your Jane cookies gluten-free, this pie will be gluten-free as well. Of course, you can substitute any other plain chocolate cookie or wafer to produce the crumbs: many people like Nabisco's "Famous Chocolate Wafers", and they will be fine. Just not as good as Jane cookies. For non-Jane cookies, you will probably need more butter to make the crumbs hold together – perhaps 4 tablespoons in all. To avoid a greasy crust, it's best to start with about half that much and then keep dribbling in melted butter a little at a time until you get the right amount of stickiness.
As noted above, the filling is adapted from "Chocolate Chiffon Pie" in The Fannie Farmer Baking Book. The crust is just a chocolate version of the graham-cracker crust I made for Lemon Meringue Pie.